Editor’s Note: In keeping with traditions established at VeloNews more than a decade ago, VeloNews.com posted several “news” stories on this site on Tuesday, April 1. We have repackaged all of that content into a single file for your enjoyment.
While several of you might be disappointed that Lance Armstrong is not riding on magnetic bearings or using a new “aero'” helmet (left), others will be saddened to learn that Laurent Brochard will not be starring in a made-for-TV movie about the life and times of Axl Rose. Many of you, too, are probably not all that happy to learn that we are indeed continuing to post the rantings of columnist Patrick O’Grady, despite his April 1 dismissal.
O’Grady’s “firing” generated more than 235 e-mails on Tuesday, most of which protested our decision to can him, but several readers applauded our good judgment:
“I really can’t believe you would bend to the outcries of a few tight-cheeked individuals who may disagree with Pat’s rantings. After all, he’s a cyclist, and therefore a few spokes short of a fully laced wheel.”
“I guess the piece about firing Patrick O’Grady is an April Fool’s joke, but I wish it were 100 percent true.”
“Great job! This is the best one since my wife faked the EPT Pregnancy test and left it on the counter in the bathroom about 20 years ago.”
“Granted O’Grady is somewhat bereft of looks, cycling ability and writing talent, but he sort of grows on you; kinda like a stubborn skin rash.”
(For those of you hoping to score one of those “helmets,” by the way, they are real… Oakley makes them and they’re $500 a pop.)
Thanks for the mail, but you can stop writing now….
VeloNews, O’Grady part ways
The parent company of VeloNews has decided to end its 14-yearassociation with cartoonist and columnist Patrick O’Grady, according to Felix Magowan, president of Inside Communications, Inc., which produces the magazine and its related web site, VeloNews.com.
“We have had several disagreements over the content of his work recently,particularly in the ‘Foaming Rant’ on VeloNews.com,” said Magowan. “Whilewe had no problem with the controversial opinions he often expressed regarding cycling issues and personalities, his insistence on including political and antiwar themes in his column had begun to strike an increasingly negative chord with readers, advertisers and, frankly, the staff of Inside Communications.”
Mail critical of O’Grady’s online column abruptly spiked after he referred to the Bush administration’s campaign in support of regime change in Iraq as a “snowjob” and “a blizzard of half-truths, unsubstantiated charges and outright lies,” a diatribe that was then given wider dissemination duringa subsequent interview with John Kernaghan of The Hamilton Spectator, a Canadian newspaper.
O’Grady’s next column ran along similar lines, despite editors’ instructions that he stick to cycling issues, and after he declined to make any changes,VeloNews’ editorial board ran an old backup column in its place and began discussing whether to sever its ties with the 49-year-old free-lancer,whose cartoons debuted in the magazine in March 1989 and whose “Fat Guy”-themed jerseys, books and other gear had been popular items in the Velo Catalog.
That contract will expire on April 1 and “will not be renewed,” Magowan said.
O’Grady expressed regret for his comments, saying: “As a cycling columnist,I probably should have kept my political opinions to myself. People don’t want my opinions. They come to VeloNews.com for a break from the real world, not a slap in the face.”
Magowan said such contrition was commendable, but “I think it’s just too little too late, at this point. It’s time for both parties to move on. There’s really nothing else to discuss. Look, I support freedom of speech as much as the next guy, but in this case, it isn’t free… it’s costing us. It’s costing me.”
O’Grady said he was uncertain about his future plans but noted that“USA Cycling is looking for a new press person.”
Meanwhile, Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, a trade journal, has also been reconsidering its 12-year relationship with O’Grady for similar reasons. His “Shop Talk” strip and “Mad Dog Unleashed” column have long contained political elements, O’Grady said, “but lately the feedback has been overwhelmingly negative.”
“They used to think the stuff was funny, but the industry isn’t exactly flush these days, and I guess advertisers and readers are more valuable than pain-in-the-ass wiseguys,” said O’Grady.
VeloNews.com respects your opinion. Was this a reasonable management decision? Mail your comments to WebLetters@7Dogs.com.
Tuesday News Briefs
Tour of Georgia Faces New Challenges
As if the logistics of putting on a world-class stage race weren’t enough, organizers of the inaugural Tour de Georgia are now bracing for the likelihood of protests at the start of Stage 1 in Augusta, Georgia.
Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, has spearheaded plans for a protest of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, April 10-13, and said that her group is “not going anywhere after that.”
Burk’s attention was turned to cycling when she learned that the upcoming Tour de Georgia did not include a women’s event. Given that the stage start in Augusta on April 23 is just 10 days after the end of the Masters, Burk said that it made sense to seize upon the momentum generated by the golf event and “continue our efforts in other sports.”
The 120-mile stage 1 from Augusta to Macon is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. in downtown Augusta with three laps of a 3.3-mile circuit. Burk has applied for a permit for 200 people to protest just one block away from the start-finish line.
“This is the first we’ve heard of it,” said tour operations director Chris Aronholt. “All we’re trying to do is put on a bike race.”
Burk, meanwhile, would only say, “These are the same streets that the men of Augusta National Golf Club travel every day, and they’re putting on a bike race here. This is an insult to women everywhere, especially during these times of war. Believe me; we’ll make our message heard.”
Burk added that in the “near future” her group will be targeting a NASCAR race in Florida, an Asheville Tourists minor league baseball game and “a Hooter’s in Chattanooga.”
ASO: Tour D’Iraq plans “only delayed”
VeloNews has learned that for the better part of the last year Tour de France organizers, Amaury Sport Organisation, had been in “high-level” discussions with the Iraqi Olympic Committee to organize a full-fledged professional Tour d’Iraq. Originally planned for April 1 – 6 of this year, the first-year event has obviously been canceled due to the American-led attack on Iraq.
However, ASO vice president Daniel Baal said Wednesday that plans are still underway to organize the event in 2004, no matter what the outcome of the current conflict.
Starting in Mosul in Northern Iraq, the race was to wind its way down the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, through Baghdad, before finishing in Basra in Southern Iraq. Originally proposed by the Iraqi National Petroleum Company, the event had respectable budget of $5 million and the supposed participation of all seven French professional teams, in addition to the national amateur teams of several Arab and European countries. Pointedly, the U.S. Postal Service team declined its invitation.
“I think in many respects, the race has to be held,” Baal said. “We need it for cultural reasons, for political reasons and, most importantly, to make a strong statement that positive change will come easier with the bicycle than with the tank or the gun.”
Baal said the goal of the race was similar to that of the Tour de France when it first started in 1903; unify a land beset by ethnic, linguistic and cultural schisms.
“In 1903 one-quarter of France could not speak French, so the similarities – and opportunities – in Iraq are the same,” Baal noted. “I think in many ways the Tour has contributed to the unification of France. When the Americans come to their senses and withdraw from Iraq we’ll get on with what’s important — bringing France’s cultural and sporting gifts to the deserts of the Middle East.”
Brochard takes on acting role
Former world champion Laurent Brochard surprised fans Tuesday when he announced that he had signed an agreement with France 3 Television to star in a made-for-TV film to be aired next spring.
Brochard inked a deal on Tuesday that gives him the starring role in the French version of “The Life and Times of Axl Rose.”
Brochard apparently holds a special place in his heart for the ‘80s frontman and took up acting as an off-season hobby several years ago. At his Tuesday press conference, Brochard explained that, though the filming will conflict with his race schedule, “it was just too grand of an opportunity to pass up.”
“My connection to Axl is more than just a choice of hairstyle,” said the Ag2R pro. “It’s something almost spiritual.”
Brochard concluded the meeting by jokingly saluting the crowd of reporters with tongue out, forefinger and pinky in the air in the classic rock ‘n roll gesture, the “sign of the devil”.
Tuesday Tech Briefs
and Lennard Zinn
Armstrong tries new helmet
Lance Armstrong’s team of advisors is usually tight-lipped this time of year when it comes to the Tour champion’s preparations, but on a recent visit to one of Armstrong’s sponsors, we spied a prototype time trial helmet that is currently being tested for the upcoming Tour.
Like most aero’ helmets, this one wraps completely around the top of the head and covers the ears to optimize aerodynamics. Where it departs from the norm, however, is with its two dozen “individual air foils,” flexible strands of woven carbon-fiber material that in wind-tunnel testing have been proven to “suck air in and spit it out,” according to one engineer who spoke to VeloNews on the condition of anonymity. “Rather thansimply redirecting airflow for aerodynamics, this thing actually provides something of a boost. It’s completely counterintuitive, but it works!”
The design has already been submitted to the UCI and met with preliminary approval, but a final decision isn’t expected until just before the Dauphiné Libéré, where the helmet would make its debut.
A secret weapon for Armstrong?
While Armstrong’s crew is open about plans for a new helmet, none of them is saying a word about another development, only accidentally discovered by teammate Tony Cruz.
After a recentinterview with VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood,Cruz offered an interesting anecdote about the cutting-edge research beingemployed by Armstrong, the Postal team and the Tour champion’s sponsors.
“We were on a training ride on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees last month,” Cruz said. “After a couple of hours in the saddle, Lance and I topped for a nature break. I figured I would pull a fast one on him and steal his bike. I mean, we’re close to the same size and I just got my new pedals, so it was no big deal.”
Cruz said that at first he couldn’t believe how effortlessly Lance’s bike moved down the road.
“‘It must be the mystique of riding a champ’s bike,’ I thought,” said Cruz, “but there was something else going on here.”
Cruz decided to go all out on his “benchmark” climb, a second-category ascent that gains 457 meters over 9km.
“I use that climb for solo time trials to gauge my fitness,” Cruz said.Not only did Cruz pulverize his time by over 90 seconds — a ten-percent improvement — he found that when he stopped pedaling half-way up the climb the bike kept moving. “It’s as if the bike had a motor,” said Cruz.
When a stern-faced Armstrong came huffing and puffing into view aboard Cruz’s now seemingly antiquated Trek, Cruz demanded to know the truth.”What’s with your bike?”
Armstrong fended off the questions for a while, but eventually conceded that Shimano engineers had been working on new “magnetic bearings.” Long considered the holy grail of components designers, magnetic bearings theoretically offer the possibility of zero friction as the two magnetized surfaces essentially “float” above one another, repelled by countervailing currents. In a straight line, the concept has been used with success in so-called “Mag-Lev” trains, but circular structures have always proved challenging.
Where does one get the power source for Lance’s magnetic bearings? A sheepish Armstrong admitted to Cruz that his entire Trek frame was in essence a giant rechargeable ni-cad battery. What might make the idea acceptable to the UCI is that bike does not rely on an external power source, but utilizes the rider’s own energy to provide the necessary charge.
“I’m really not sure I should be talking about this,” a suddenly nervous Cruz said. “Can this be off-the-record?”
Shimano confirms financing plan
Shimano American Corporation has announced a new consumer purchase plan for its 2004 Dura-Ace and XTR component groups. Through an arrangement with a consortium of mortgage brokerage firms, qualified homeowners will be able to purchase the spendy parts kit by borrowing against their home equity line of credit. Despite confirming plans for the new finance program, Shimano officials declined to name a price for either component group, other than to say that the mountain-bike group and the new 10-speed road group will be “worth every darn penny.”
Shimano’s Wayne Stetina told VeloNews Wednesday that the new parts are “vastly superior to anything else on the market, so it’s definitely worth taking out a secured low-interest loan on something that special.You won’t be disappointed.”
Stetina said that the company is now working on finance programs that will will also accept 401k plans, education IRAs and certain stock certificates as security.
Cipollini Introduces Line of Hair Care Products
In an apparent effort to diversify his income stream and expand his image as a leader in men’s fashion, Mario Cipollini has announced the introduction of his line of hair care products, to be known as F-coneable. Pronounced, “eff cone ab lay”, the trademark is an acronym for Fastest Cyclist on Earth, Also Best Looking. The products range from shampoos and conditioners to the brand’s premier creation, Lion King Pomade, which will be available in 10, 20, and “Cipollini Edition” 400 weight formulas.